At 19-0, it’s time to start considering the possibility that Murray State may complete its regular-season schedule without a loss.
Since 1976, only two teams have run the table in the regular season: 1990-91 UNLV and 2003-04 St. Joseph's. As nice as the history matters, the more important factor is what a 32-0 record may mean for Murray State in March.
Bracketologists’ opinions are all over the map on where the Racers currently stand. CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has the highest opinion of MSU’s current resume, projecting the Racers with a fourth seed – as things currently stand. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi thinks the least of them. He has them currently with a No. 7 seed. Collegehoops.net’s Shawn Siegel projects them to receive No. 5 and Sport Illustrated’s Andy Glockner has them at a 6.
It’s easy to see why the opinions are so varied. Both sides make valid points.
There are two main the Racers deserve a high seed if they go unbeaten. First, you have to be really, really good to go unbeaten for 32 games, no matter who your competition is. More importantly, who else deserves to be ahead of them?
Besides Syracuse (who also has an outside shot of going undefeated) and Kentucky, who are clear No. 1 seeds if things go according to plan, is there anyone else whose resume makes them a clear No. 1? Baylor, Kansas, Missouri, Duke, Ohio State and North Carolina are certainly ahead of the Racers right now. But in the scenario that Murray State goes unbeaten, it could even move ahead of some of those squads. That means, at a minimum, the Racers are looking at a 3 seed if they remain unbeaten through the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
The schedule, of course, is the biggest argument against them. The Racers have beaten UAB and Memphis on the road, Southern Mississippi and South Florida on neutral courts and Dayton at home. In most years, going 5-0 in those games would be quite a feat. Memphis, Southern Miss and Dayton are also projected as NCAA bubble teams, and those are the three best teams Murray State has faced this season.
Again, it’s not Murray State’s fault, but the OVC is experiencing one of its worst seasons in years. Racer rivals Austin Peay and Morehead State are having forgettable seasons, although Morehead did give them a scare last night. Southeast Missouri and Tennessee Tech are decent, but wins over the Redhawks and Golden Eagles can hardly be put in the “quality win” category. In fact, not a single team in the OVC outside of Murray State is ranked in the RPI top 150.
Another question is what happens if the Racers finish the season with one loss, or even two? Even one loss probably sees Murray State’s eventual NCAA seed take a tumble three or four spots. Two losses and it is probably looking at a seed of 7, 8 or even lower. Last year, Utah St lost 3 times in the regular season and only earned a 12 seed. The year before, Murray State only lost once in conference play, with a 30-4 record heading into the tournament, and were given a 13 seed.
Finishing strong may be more important to Murray State than any other team in the Top 25. Even at a 3, 4 or 5 seed, the Racers are good enough to contend for a spot in the Final 4. If they can stay unbeaten and earn a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, they may very well be playing in New Orleans in early April.